Jump on in, the water's fine...
Perusing players and systems not our own has been a hobby of mine since I began writing on Twins Territory about 14 months ago. The trick was to find a player who met a certain set of criteria: young, affordable, undervalued, available, talented. Ideally a player met the criterion of young and talented; the rest could be worked around if you're creative enough. At least this was the case in my mind.
One of Roger's comments caught my eye yesterday, when he mentioned the name of Eric Duncan in a trade involving Torii Hunter. Duncan, of course, is one of New York's prospects. He's a third baseman who's being tried as a first baseman (and possibly other things), because he's being blocked to the majors by some hack who goes by the name of Alex Rodriguez. I heard he's a flash in the pan.
Anyway, it got me to thinking who else could be had in that trade. Duncan wouldn't be the safest of bets; he's struggled at certain points in the Yankee farm system, falling short of the lofty expectations held for him as a hitter. Still, he's only 21, and when you're trading a commodity like Torii Hunter, you're getting back more than one prospect.
Who else? Certainly nobody on the current major league roster for the Yankees. Robinson Cano isn't for sale, Gary Sheffield would hate it in Minnesota and Minnesotans wouldn't like him anyway, and I highly doubt we should be showing interest in guys like Bubba Crosby or Melky Cabrera.
Crashing the Yankee farm system I've compiled a list of eight other players, all position players, who would be on my hit-list. If there's one weakness in the Minnesota minor league structure it's a lack of hitting prospects, and with the rash of pitching talent in our system we're certainly not shorting ourselves by ignoring the pitching talent of the Yankees. Past Eric Duncan on the list below, I would be asking for at least two of the following players, if not three.
Games AB H 2B HR Obp Avg Slg Ops
316 1151 297 75 39 .346 .258 .447 .793
These totals are over three years in the Yankee system, from 2003-2005. The 27th overall pick in the amateur draft, he was initially touted as the future of third base for the boys in pinstripes. But of course we all know what happens to Yankee prospects.
So far in 2006, Duncan is hitting .209/.279/.255 in 100 at-bats, with 6 homers and 1 double in his first stint in AAA. It's definately NOT what you'd dub promising, which makes it easy to say the Twins could probably have their pick of the rest of the men on this list.
Year Lvl Age AB H HR Obp Avg Slg Ops
2003 AA 25 463 112 23 .338 .242 .430 .768
2004 AA 26 496 122 39 .334 .246 .548 .882
2005 AAA 27 489 131 27 .347 .268 .507 .854
2006 AAA 28 142 33 7 .341 .232 .465 .806
I see Mitch Jones as a somewhat more competent Garrett Jones. Perhaps they're related; I have no idea. Mitch Jones is little more than a power-hitter who has been caught up in the Yankee farm system. How he's managed to avoid being called up this season is a mystery until you see his strikeout numbers. He's already been fanned 43 times this year, and he was sent down on strikes 457 times between '03 and '05. Compare this to the 195 free passes he's taken in the last four seasons.
Jones isn't my first option, but with how we've been playing this year it couldn't hurt to try him at DH, could it?
Year AB H HR Obp Avg Slg Ops
'99-'05 2256 741 100 .412 .328 .544 .956
2006 100 30 4 .366 .300 .520 .886
Ruiz is similar to Jones in that mostly he's an older player who has been beating up on younger players. His development has been slow, taking until last season to reach AA. In the past he's struggled jumping up a level toward the end of the year, and perhaps it's his inability to adapt quickly that has stunted his growth.
In spite of Ruiz having glaring weaknesses, Ruiz is a curiosity who could flourish with a change of pace. Of course, seeing how he's reacted to change in the past, he's probably one of the worse options on this list.
Year AB H 2B HR Obp Avg Slg Ops
'01-'05 2152 581 112 49 .356 .270 .400 .756
2006 168 48 8 5 .348 .286 .435 .783
Sardinha is another 1st-round draft pick in New York, taken 34th overall back in 2001. Over his time with the Yankees he's begun to develop gap power and a decent home run stroke, but what makes him attractive is the patience he had at the plate prior to 2005. His ability to reach base has dwindled somewhat in his adjustment to AA, but he still maintains an attractive OBP.
With youngsters like Alex Romero, Denard Span and Doug Deeds waiting in the outfield wings for the Twins, searching for too many outfielders may not be the most prudent avenue, but prospects rarely pan out like we think they will. It couldn't hurt too much to throw more talent in the pool.
Year Age Lvl Obp Avg Slg Ops
2002 19 NCAA .444 .310 .460 .904
2003 20 NCAA .382 .294 .429 .811
2004 21 NCAA .401 .356 .534 .935
2005 22 NCAA .418 .320 .481 .899
2005 22 A- .382 .270 .351 .733
Roth's good news is that he is a college player, which means that in the right system he will progress quickly. For A-ball he's a little on the older side at 23, yet he looks to have loads of potential as an OBP machine. In 2006 he's only had 12 games and 29 at-bats to prove his worth, but in spite of a paltry 5 hits he's taken 10 walks for an OBP of .375.
A number of sites I checked either weren't specific in what position Roth played, or they didn't post a position at all. From his relatively low strikeout numbers, from his lower power totals and from his absurdly high on-base totals I imagined him to be a middle infielder. If he's a corner infielder, particularly if he's a first baseman, some of these statistics are a little disappointing. You CANNOT ignore his OBP however, and this makes him very attractive regardless.
Year Org Lvl Age Obp
2001 Oak A- 21 .345
2002 Oak A+ 22 .363
2003 Oak A+ 23 .363
2003 Oak AA 23 .377
2004 NYY A+ 24 .289
2004 NYY AA 24 .311
2005 NYY AA 25 .293
2006 NYY AA 26 .345
Stotts is getting a little old to be a prospect, especially in AA, but he's not quite as disappointing as Ruiz. What strikes me about Stotts is his quick rise through the Oakland system, graduating to a successful stint with the Athletic's AA affiliate in 2003. Upon his arrival in the Yankee farm system however, his OBP numbers drop amazingly. It makes me curious to see if a change of scenery could get Stotts turned back in the right direction. So far in 2006 he's posted good numbers, but a 26-year old worth anything should be doing so at AA.
Stotts is also appealing because he plays shortstop. Yes, Jason Bartlett is ready to take over as soon as management realizes what a waste of at-bats Juan Castro is, but other legitimate SS prospects (Plouffe, Portes) are still at least two years away. If Stotts comes in and turns himself around he suddenly becomes a nice backup option.
Year Lvl Age AB H SB Obp Avg Slg Ops
2005 Rookie 17 156 49 22 .382 .314 .417 .799
2006 A 18 145 50 6 .396 .345 .538 .934
Jose Tabata appears to be one of the few legitimate jewels in the Yankees' depleted farm system. In rookie ball last year he ripped up the yard with everything but power; walks and singles most notably, but in spite of the over-rated art of the stolen base he looked amazing in that category as well. He was successful on 78% of his attempts on the basepaths, a percentage high enough to offset the probability that a stolen base attempt is usually just a wasted out.
Beginning this year at A-ball, Tabata has continued his tear by adding a little power to his resume. He's already posted 4 homers, 14 doubles and a triple. If the Twins trade for Eric Duncan, Tabata should be a part of the deal.
Year Lvl Age AB H SB Obp Avg Slg Ops
2003 NCAA 19 215 61 28 .370 .284 .353 .723
2004 NCAA 20 237 91 22 .475 .397 .574 1.049
2005 NCAA 21 273 122 38 .506 .447 .571 1.077
2005 A- 21 282 80 19 .377 .284 .376 .753
2006 A 22 147 54 46 .486 .367 .463 .949
Gardner, like Tabata, is an outfielder, but it's more difficult to find decent-hitting infielders that it is to find decent-hitting outfielders, even in the minor leagues. I imagine the Yankee farm system leaves even more to be desired than most clubs.
Back to Brett Gardner, he's another speedster with little home run power but plenty of gap power and speed to compliment it. He's always known how to get on base, walking 160 times in the period listed above compared for being fanned 184 times.
With the way he's tearing the cover off he ball where he is, I expect Gardner to be called up at least a level within the next couple of weeks. If the Twins couldn't get Tabata, Gardner would be my next choice.
AB H XBH Obp Avg Slg Ops
148 50 8 .387 .338 .426 .813
That isn't a typo; his name is Reegie. He's been in the Yankee system since 2004, but didn't play much nor post numbers worthy of note between rookie league, low-A and high-A ball. Beginning this year at A once again, Corona (no that's not a typo either) has had an incredible amount of success compared to what he's accomplished in the past. He has some speed and some gap power, but his ability to work a walk (along with owning A-level pitching) has propelled him to by far his best season yet. Reegie Corona is definately worth a look as well. He doesn't have the past to back up this season's numbers, but at 19 he's still young enough to develop further.
I really don't want to lose Torii Hunter. A number of times I've been on record saying he deserves to retire with the Twins, and I'd like nothing more than to see Torii's face along the banners at the back wall of the Metrodome. (Rather...at the new stadium?) In the end I know that baseball is a business, and the Twins cannot pay Torii $12,000,000; so I hope they can work out a deal to restructure. Torii wants to stay, and as long as he's not being paid $12 million I don't know many people who would be opposed to the idea.
Having said that, if the Twins trade Hunter, there are three names I want from the list above for certain. Eric Duncan (3B), Jose Tabata (OF) and Reggie Corona (2B). If we couldn't get Corona I'd be asking for both Gardner (OF) and Roth (IF), with Jones (OF) a distant sixth as a backup option. Should trading Torii become a necessity, these moves would constitute an intelligent business transaction. Is it another Pierzynski deal? Probably not.
But you have to get something for Torii Hunter.